Cricketers History

South African Sacrifice : Untold Cricket Story Part 2

In 1992, Henry made his ODI debut at the World Cup, the tournament in which South Africa reintroduced themselves to global sport as a determined, driven outfit. Apartheid, an official marginalisation of the country’s black majority, was the reason South Africa had been isolated from the international community. The cricket World Cup became one of the routes through which they re-entered the fold.

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Jonty Rhodes is flying through the air like Superman to run out Inzamam-ul-Haq. For most of us it’s the first sighting of Allan Donald’s “White Lightning”. Then there’s Kepler Wessels – is he an enemy of the state or do we give him a cheer? Too dour for cheering, perhaps. Don’t forget the farcical sight of the SCG semi-final scoreboard against England. Before he’d even been granted the right to vote in his own country, South African all-rounder Omar Henry had represented his nation on the world stage, at that 1992 World Cup.

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We always knew there’d be a political footprint to South Africa’s reintroduction to international sport, but they left plenty of cricketing impressions too. Understandable then that it takes a while to rake up memories of what happened beforehand, when the selection of that Proteas squad sent an entire nation into a state of turmoil.

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The decision to cut much-loved Clive Rice – incumbent national captain and holder of the kind of public approval rating that suggested he’d continue in the role – plus veteran batsmen Jimmy Cook and Peter Kirsten from the squad for cricket’s marquee event was scandalous. It was worse than that, in fact. The veteran trio actually missed out entirely on a provisional list of 30 “probables” from whom the final squad would be chosen.

But how to vent your spleen in such technologically austere times? Well, petitions of course. Lots of petitions. South Africans had waited 20 years for this moment and what, these selectors were just going to turf the stalwarts?

“I was as staggered as the rest of the country,” South Africa’s coach Mike Proctor later told ESPNCricinfo. Cook and Kirsten had a window re-opened when they were included in the “friendship series” against India and the latter did well enough to win his way back into his country’s final squad for the main event in Australia and New Zealand. It was a judicious reprieve – Kirsten ended up third on the tournament run-getters’ list with 410 at 68.33. Not bad for an old bloke who became known for getting hit in the head.

But it was Rice who probably had most reason to feel aggrieved. Just four months earlier he’d been pulled aside during a club game and told by South African selector Lee Irvine that not only was South Africa re-entering international cricket within the week but that Rice was the man who would lead the first post-Apartheid team. Yet now he wasn’t even in the best 30 players in his country?

I was very pissed off not to go,” Rice recently told Inside Cricket, leaving little to the imagination with his follow-up: “I never saw eye-to-eye with our chairman of selectors, Peter Van Der Merwe. He was a total amateur when it came to playing the game and he was the same as a selector.” So on the balance of things then, you’d say it’s probably still a sore point.


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